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Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Page: 1035


Ms TEMPLEMAN (Macquarie) (16:55): I had a glimmer of hope for my community groups, the tourism industry and local councils when I heard that the government was doing a Building Better Regions Fund. There can be no doubt that I live outside Sydney and that my electorate of Macquarie is outside Sydney. The AEC excludes us from its map of Sydney. The points in my electorate closest to the Sydney CBD are at least a 60-kilometre drive away. Aside from the city fringe suburbs of the Hawkesbury and, perhaps, some suburbs of the lower Blue Mountains, both local government areas are predominantly a series of villages with tiny populations, scattered across the ridges of a World Heritage national park—a few hundred, or at most, a few thousand people. In fact, large tracts of my electorate are so remote that the only NBN access is through Sky Muster or fixed wireless. We are told the population is too sparse even for FTTN.

But are we eligible for the Building Better Regions Fund? Well, I want to be absolutely precise and explain that there are eight places eligible for these grants in my electorate: St Albans, Mount Wilson and Mount Irvine, Mount Tomah, Bilpin, Megalong Valley, Blackheath and Mount Victoria. But is the rest of the electorate—the majority of the electorate—eligible? No. Why not? No reason. The grants program classifies us as a 'major city' of Australia. Well, go to Linden, or come to the tourist village of Leura, and tell me that you are in a major city. People do not flock there at weekends, because it reminds them of the CBD! And what about Ebenezer, Sackville and Kurrajong? Check them out on Google and tell me if you reckon they are major cities of Australia.

The Minister for Regional Development says that this project ensures smaller councils do not compete with major capital city councils for funding. Well, that does not explain why the electorate of Robertson, for instance, is eligible, in spite of having the same classification as my electorate. Yet, of course, it has Gosford at its centre—the third-largest urban centre in New South Wales.

Let's compare and contrast. The exclusion zone for this grants program extends 110 kilometres west along the Great Western Highway, to prevent Blue Mountains City Council from being able to fairly access it for important projects. It also extends 85 kilometres up the Bells Line of Road to Kurrajong Hills and 86 kilometres up the Putty Road beyond Colo, effectively reducing eligibility for the whole of the Hawkesbury. But Gosford is included in the program—it is 76 kilometres from Sydney's CBD and it is considered more regional than the Blue Mountains or the Hawkesbury. So the decision to largely exclude Macquarie from eligibility for this program shows one thing: it shows the contempt with which the Liberal and National parties treat the people of the Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains.